Mother-in-law's tongue is also known as a snake plant or sansevieria. The plant has sharp, spiky leaves that grow upward. This is a hardy houseplant that will grow in almost any type of environment. These plants often grow for decades. They grow well in low light or direct sunlight and need little watering or attention.
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Mother-in-law's tongue produces small, greenish-white flowers on a long stalk. The flower stalk can be up to 3 feet in length and contain dozens of small blossoms. The blossoms are tubular-shaped, similar to a lily. They bloom very rarely. It is not uncommon for them to bloom only once every 10 years. Mother-in-law's tongue plants often bloom when they are under stress; for example, if they are root-bound. Enjoy the blossoms from your plant, because you'll seldom see any.
Mother-in-law's tongue plants thrive with very little care. They require infrequent watering and little or no fertilisation. They are excellent house plants because they do well in low light areas. The plant will not grow bigger in dim lighting, though. You can put the pot outside in the summer to let the plant grow larger. Mother-in-law's tongue plants can stay in the same pot until they become root bound, at which point they should be transplanted to a pot that is 2 inches larger in diameter.
There are several varieties of the Mother-in-law's tongue. The most common variety has green, fleshy, sword-like leaves with grey cross bands. The plant can grow several feet tall. Laurentii is a variety with a yellow band on the leaves. There is also a dwarf variety called the birdnest snakeplant. It grows in a rosette shape and is only 6 inches high.
The mother-in-law's tongue became a popular houseplant in the 1920s and 1930s. The plants were sold at five-and-dime stores such as Woolworth. The plant originated in South Africa, where the fibres from the plant were used to produce the strings for bows. Mother-in-law's tongue plants can be easily propagated by cutting a 3-inch piece of a leaf and reinserting it into the soil bottom end down. The leaf segment will develop roots in about three months and send up shoots to create a new plant.
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